A better year for pedestrians 2015/2016

| 28 Dec 2015 | 04:41

On Dec. 28, the web site streetsblog.com published a gruesome tally: a listing of every pedestrian fatality in the city.

The list, which scrolls down page after computer page, lists the name of the person killed, their age, where and how they died, and in some cases includes a photograph. In most of the entries, the outcome of the case is “No Known Charges.”

It is a grim, and infuriating, reminder of what safety activists continue to call an epidemic in New York City -- the deaths of pedestrians from crashes with cars.

But amidst all of the tragedy, it is possible that 2015 was the year the tide finally turned, thanks to pressure from victims’ families and some sensible policies from Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Barring an unexpected last-minute surge, the number of pedestrians killed by cars should hit a record low this year, lower even than the 132 deaths in 2014.

Analysts credit the decline to a lowering of the city’s speed limit to 25 m.p.h., increasing the number of speed cameras, and reducing or eliminating cars in Central Park and Prospect Park.

But even with the policy gains -- and the historically low number of deaths -- the numbers still mean that every two or three days, a pedestrian in the city dies at the hands of a driver, a very long way from Vision Zero, which calls for no traffic fatalities.

The missing link, as the streetsblog list demonstrates, continues to be prosecution, which is out of the mayor’s control. For a complex set of reasons -- legal, political and cultural -- it remains frustratingly difficult to win convictions against drivers who kill people, even if they are breaking other traffic laws in the process.

Changing that fact will be the focus of activists in 2016. They have vowed to continue to put pressure on prosecutors, on state lawmakers, even on judges to topple the last remaining, big barrier to making the city streets safer.

Streetsblog’s list a year from now will let us know whether they were able to make a difference.